It’s pretty simple. To make decaf, you start out with regular coffee beans and then take out the caffeine. Manufacturers usually begin the process by steaming fresh beans until they’re moist and swollen. Next, the caffeine is extracted using a solvent, such as water, ethyl acetate, methylene chloride, or highly pressurized carbon dioxide. Then the beans are steamed and dried again, which removes any residue from the solvent. This process rarely gets all the caffeine out, but according to U.S. law, it doesn’t have to. For coffee to be labeled decaf, only 97.5 percent of its caffeine must be removed. On average, a cup of regular coffee has 115 mg of caffeine, while a cup of decaf has about 3 mg.
What happens to all the caffeine once it’s been extracted?
It would be a shame for all that caffeine to go to waste. So, coffee manufacturers save the jittery gold and sell it to soft drink makers and pharmaceutical companies. In the end, the caffeine winds up in your Coke and NoDoz.
[by Ethan Trex]